What is a Duplex? Complete Guide

By PropertyClub Team
Jan 13th 2023
Duplexes are very common across the United States. If you’ve been searching for a new apartment to rent, there’s a good chance you’ve probably seen plenty of duplex apartments on the market.

Duplexes are often preferred to standard apartment living, as they allow individuals to have the experience of living in a house, usually for a significantly reduced cost. This is primarily because they tend to be partially detached, and many of them come with their own parking or even a garage, and often a backyard or at least a patio. However, duplexes do have a significant difference from houses. Generally speaking, they do require residents to share common areas with their neighbors.

hash-markWhat Is a Duplex?

A duplex is a home that contains two separate living units that share a common wall. In some ways a duplex is essentially a two-family home in a single building. The living units in a duplex can be arranged in any way, either next to one another or one below the other. Usually, a duplex will have a separate entrance for each unit, allowing for even more privacy. Duplexes should not be confused with twin homes, mainly because twin homes have separate lots, whereas duplexes are technically a single property on one lot. That means that there is one owner or set of owners for the entire duplex. 

It’s not uncommon for an owner to live in one half of a duplex and rent the other half out. This can be appealing for landlords who want to make a little bit of extra income by renting out half of their duplex to help cover the mortgage payments.

hash-markHow Does a Duplex Work?

You can use a duplex in a number of ways, such as a primary residence with an in-law suite or as a live-in-rental, where the owner lives in one unit and rents out the other. This makes duplexes a popular choice for house hacking. Investors also like duplexes as they can rent both units out to generate income. 

hash-markThe Pros of Renting Out a Duplex

The main benefits of duplexes are that they tend to have amenities such as a yard, garage, and a little more privacy than living in an apartment. This can make them an ideal rental choice for families who would like their children to have outdoor space to play. They are also usually a little more affordable than a single-family home, which can often allow tenants to rent in a neighborhood that they may not otherwise afford to live in.

Another approach to living in a duplex is that you only have one set of neighbors. Instead of living in an apartment complex where you often have to deal with multitudes of neighbors and split amenities, living in a duplex allows you to share common spaces with only one other household. They’re sort of like the halfway point between a single-family home and an apartment complex. 

hash-markThe Cons of Living in a Duplex

The primary con; you do share a wall with the neighbor. Or, if the duplex is stacked, you’ll be either living above or below someone else. There’s also a good chance that you won’t have your own private backyard if you do have an outdoor space. You’ll have to share with the neighbor. Bear in mind, there’s a good chance your neighbor will be your landlord. This can be off-putting for some renters, as they feel like they’re being closely watched at all times.

If you don’t get along with your neighbors or you like more privacy, then a duplex probably isn’t an ideal situation for you. You’ll probably see a lot of your duplex neighbor.

Additionally, as mentioned previously, many duplexes are privately owned by landlords, and because of this, you may have increased responsibilities. The likelihood is that you have an outdoor space, so responsibilities might include tending to the lawn, performing yard work, shoveling snow, or making sure the outdoor area stays clean and tidy.

hash-markDuplexes Bottom Line

Duplexes can be a great option for buyers and investors as they offer a lot of flexibility and the potential to earn some passive income by renting out part or all of the duplex. If you don’t fancy the idea of living in an apartment but can’t afford to rent a single-family home, a duplex might be the perfect solution. They’re more private than an apartment in a large building, you can rent part of the duplex out for some additional income, and you might end up with amenities such as outdoor space and a private parking spot.

When house-hunting, maybe check out some duplexes in your area and see if they could be the right fit for you.